Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The muddled middle

Ever go into a workout all fired-up and ready to set a PR and have it all go horribly wrong? You've got a goal in your head, say a 5-minute Fran, a 300 FGB, or a 20-round Cindy. Setting a goal like that can be motivating and help you pace your workout right, but it can also turn into a trap. You get halfway through the second round of FGB and that 300 is getting further away or you get to the 12th round of Cindy and see that your one round-per-minute pace is off by 30 seconds. You know then and there that you're not going to make your goal today.

How do you respond? Do you dig deep and try to charge for that goal, flaming out gloriously? Do you break into analysis mode and figure out a new pace and a new goal? Do you hang your head for a second and muddle through dejectedly falling further behind? How you respond to this point in the workout says more about the quality of your training than your sub-3:00 Grace, your BW snatch, or the muscle-up that you just can't seem to master. That mid-workout point is the place where you really need to dig deep and take the measure of yourself. Tony Budding calls the mid-workout crisis the place where times are made and broken. Anybody can kick it in for the last round or last couple of minutes to finish strong, but to maximize your output when you're in the depth of the WOD, wishing you would hurry up and die so the pain might go away and having no hope for release anytime soon that the true firebreathers are made.

I have a Bad Habit of fading in the 8-12 minute range on AMRAP 20 metcons. It's a reason that I put long metcons in general at the top of my list of goats. The tricky thing is that the mid-workout crash comes from a different direction with different workouts. In Cindy and Murph, it's the pushups that ultimately catch up to me, leaving me balancing intensity against impending muscular failure. In FGB, the metcon hit causes my technique to go to hell until my shoulders are screaming at me to stop in that second set of PPs. In Elizabeth, the heavy hit of the squat cleans just saps my confidence in my ability to complete another rep. The worst, however, are those workouts with running and something simple like burpees. There's nothing really keeping you from doing the next rep, even if it's going to be slow, but still you stop and stare at your shoes, unable to convince yourself to perform the next rep. It's a naked failure of will and is supremely humbling.

Regardless of the specific physical challenge that forms the critical point halfway through the workouts, I need to learn how to push through that point - risking failure right there to find out what I can do. As Coach says, the best race car-drivers crash their cars testing their limits. Even when muscular failure is at hand and doing one more rep might add minutes to my time, I'll never know my capabilities if I don't test my limits. The score today doesn't matter. The score only matters on game day. This is training. The point of training is to get stronger. I can pace myself to maximize performance at the Qualifiers, but right now I need to push through the sticking points, even if it leaves me wrecked before the workout is done. Tonight, I tackled a recent mainpage WOD, one of those naked tests of will, and these thoughts were front-and-center in my mind.

Row 500m - 151.4 (felt super slow and weak and had to fight back the excuses already)
Hip mobility drills
Burgener warmup

Skill work
Tall clean 45x3, 95x3, 115x3x2, 125x3 (little sloppy on the last set)


3 rounds:

    Row 500m
    21 Burpees
    Run 400m


Core work
Waiter's walks 3 x 75 feet each arm, 55#

That was just the type of test I needed. I got off to a slow start when the first treadmill I grabbed wouldn't get up to speed, and then when it finally hit the 10mph mark, it stopped working altogether. By the time I got another treadmill up and going, I'd lost 30 seconds to a minute. As a result, the second round didn't feel as bad as I'd expected it to. That 3rd row, however, was the moment of truth. I ended up skipping a stroke to breath (I absolutely hate that), but somehow I kept the pace up well enough to finish that round in under 1:48. However, that really brought the wrath of the metcon devil down on me. I had to take a few seconds just to stand up and get off the rower. I don't know that this was a failure of will, so much as it was a failure of equilibrium. After that I staggered my way through the rest of the workout with some slow, but mostly steady zombie burpees and a painfully slow run. The post-workout laydown wasn't the same painful wallow as after Fran, but it was a while before I stood up and took stock of things again.


jenna said...

Nice work, Patrick. I am planning on doing that metcon on Saturday. My goal is under 15 minutes....but after seeing your time, I'm wondering if that's even possible, especially for a slow rower like me.

Patrick Haskell said...

You're the enduro-queen, Jenna, but 15 minutes is pretty damn fast. OPT got just over 14, and it's a workout that's right up his alley. Go all out, but like I said in the post, don't let falling behind schedule slow you down further. 17-18 minutes would be absolutely kick-ass. Go get it.

jenna said...

Oh, wow. Okay, good to know. I can't wait. I'm going to rest hard tommorrow and then get after it!